TQ-Robotics & the Franka Emika Robot: Not everything has to be automated

A few months ago, the "TQ approach" was reported on here, and now I was able to visit TQ Systems in Durach near Kempten at the invitation of the product managers Dirk Thamm (top right) and Robert Vogel (top left). As is well known, TQ is closely associated with Franka Emika. Both as a shareholder and as a manufacturer of the Franka Emika Robot and, above all, as a sales partner that specifically seeks automation solutions and supports them with its own software development. You guessed it, "Franka Emika Robot" is the new name for the former "Panda".

TQ has more to offer than the Franka Emika Robot

Hanging in front of the walk into the showroom - e-bikes. For TQ, these not only represent a further entry into a growth market, but also bring contact with end customers for the first time. Since 2017, TQ has been offering complete drive systems to numerous bicycle manufacturers. The heart of the system is the powerful HPR120S motor. Thanks to the patented Harmonic Pin Ring technology, TQ's e-bike drive system offers maximum efficiency in addition to an ultra-compact design. To expand brand awareness beyond the trade audience to the common e-biker, TQ is now sponsoring the German Ski Association for the second season. Provided Corona plays along, the TQ emblem should be seen extensively in the coming weeks and months, so that the technology brand should have gained further awareness by the start of the cycling season in March.

Image source: German Ski Association
Image description: f.l.t.r. Florian Notz (cross-country skiing), Sabrina Cakmakli (freeskiing), Johannes Rydzek (Nordic combined), Katharina Althaus (ski jumping), Florian Wilmsmann (skicross)

Performance data Franka Emika Robot - advised increase

Formerly called Panda, the Cobot is known to be able to lift 3 kg and has a reach of 85 cm. The special thing about it is its 7 axes, which enable special mobility. At €15,700 including software and gripper , it is cheaper than the vast majority of competitors, but not quite as powerful. In addition to the price, it makes up for this with the software and its special sensitivity. Its data as well as IP30 have led to the Panda being used in the electronics industry and primarily in applications with lower weight, such as machine assembly, and less in the CNC sector, for example. Only recently, in an interview with Franka Emika, a portfolio expansion was announced, which means that the application areas will continue to increase in the near future. Sooner or later, the material price increases will not pass Franka by. So anyone who wanted to buy a Cobot anyway should do so promptly. Because the increased purchase prices will certainly be passed on.

Software without follow-up costs, but with supplements

TQ-Robotics, as mentioned at the beginning, has several functions. Perhaps the least known is that of the software developer. Since TQ regularly implements both in-house and external automations, an extensive software library has accumulated over time. This now comprises 30 apps. When purchasing a Franka Cobot, the "TQ Core Solution" is included, a package for integrated automation including control of sensors, actuators, error handling, Logi, TCP measurement and much more. The customer receives new core apps free of charge and has no other follow-up costs to consider. The apps are particularly suitable for pick & place applications, machine loading, etc. In addition, there are modular extensions for screwing, soldering, gluing, 2D camera.

Not everything has to be automated

The well-known TQ approach includes the intensive use of the Franka Emika Robot in its own robotics and electronics production. This means that the company is itself a user and can subsequently sell the solutions to third parties. The electronics sector in particular is an interesting market here. In Germany, there are a four-digit number of PCB assemblers who mainly produce in smaller batches and therefore have to be extremely flexible. The Franka Emika Robto is predestined for partial automation. Partial automation because full automation is often not worthwhile. Robert Vogel pointed out that individual activities (e.g. carrying away a full carton) only occur at longer time intervals and therefore programming and setting up such a marginal activity would not be profitable.

This reservation about full automation seems all too justified to me. After all, in mid-sized companies, there is almost always someone who can do something on the side every few minutes.

There is a solution for almost everything

The tour through the production made it clear that there is a solution for almost everything and that at TQ, for cost reasons, the Franka Emika Robot has to replace many accessories. Of course, it would be possible to mount rollers on an inclined production line so that the parts themselves glide to their destination. But this would cost money and since the Franka Emika Robot still had some time, it was given the task of pushing. It looks unusual, but it saves money.

Good design is important, but safety is more important

Of course, it is a matter of taste, but for me, the Franka Emika Robot clearly belongs to the cobots with good, valuable-looking design. Dirk Thamm, one of the German cobot pioneers, was of course happy to hear this and also said that appearance certainly plays a role in the purchase decision. Nevertheless, he said, employees should always be aware that they are dealing with a machine and not a friendly-looking colleague. Dirk Thamm is right about that, of course. The consideration of safety during the conversation as well as the collision protection of the Franka Emika Robot additionally distinguish it from some competitors.

Small premiere

Shortly before my visit, the Zimmer-Schmalz "Match" changeover tool had arrived in Durach and been assembled. It enables the grippers of these two manufacturers to be changed quickly and automatically, as the video shows:

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The author of this blog is significantly involved in the AI/ robotics project Boost-Bot. He advises robotics companies and investors on market (entry)/ business development and funding/subsidies. The standard book on cobots is also written by Guido Bruch (however, the book is already 2 years old and therefore not quite up to date). More about him can be found here.

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